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25.11.15

Where is Liam Byrne headed?

Liam Byrne is nothing if not industrious. After a hotly contested by-election, a minister five minutes after becoming an MP. The hard work continued on the opposition front bench, even if he felt too Blairite to be in vogue during the Miliband years. When he might have been expected to back the more Blairite Liz Kendall, he enthusiastically supported Yvette Cooper.

Cooper outperformed Kendall but Byrne’s candidate was left to eat Corbyn’s dust, as a much changed party from the one that Byrne was first elected to represent was created. Back then Byrne was the poster boy for Blair’s ability to win by-elections in the face of impassioned campaigning by parties, the Liberal Democrats and Respect, opposed to the Iraq war. Now Labour has a leader who can seem to be willing Blair toward the Hague.

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27.02.15

Uncut Review: New Labour’s Old Roots, edited by Patrick Diamond

I had this on Labour Uncut a few weeks ago.

“This is the culmination of a long period in which the voice of moderate opinion in the Labour Party has been drowned by the clamour of an active and articulate minority”. Reading Atul Hatwal recently on Uncut on the monstering of Blairites and humouring of leftists, this feels a commentary on our times. But it comes from the Campaign for Democratic Socialism’s (CDS) 1962 manifesto.

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26.03.13

Back to the future with GDH Cole

I had this on Labour Uncut in February.

How much left the room when GDH Cole stormed out of a Fabian executive meeting in 1915? More than you might imagine.

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29.09.12

Labour needs to choose freedom

I had this on Labour Uncut earlier this week.

“The success of Thatcherism did not lie in the immediate popularity of its programme, but its ability to command the cultural landscape of Britain … The most enduring threat faced by the left is not only to be perceived as an incompetent manager of the economy, but to be out of touch with major cultural advances and the contemporary zeitgeist.”

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01.02.11

What next for New Labour?

The current Progress magazine contains my answer to the question ‘what next for New Labour?’

New Labour was never a year zero but an embrace of proud Labour traditions. It isn’t a body of doctrine but a cast of mind as revisionist as Tony Crosland in unsentimentally separating core values (ends) and policy instruments (means). It is as hard-headed as Ernest Bevin in always seeking to be grounded in lived realities, not abstract theories, and in recognising that our core values will be best realised within these lived realities with Labour in power.

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21.07.09

French revisionism

Manuel Valls has launched his campaign to be the presidential candidate for the French Socialist Party in 2012 with words that attractively evoke the revisionist spirits of Eduard Bernstein and Tony Crosland:

“The job of the left is not to deny the inevitable; instead, it should seek to transform every change into an opportunity to promote its values”.

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22.02.09

Is my mind occupied?

“Equality and justice are the only ends of socialism, everything else is means”. This sentence from Roy Hattersley probably gets as close as any sentence to capturing the fundamental essence of my political beliefs. These are beliefs that stretch back to Immanuel Kant via Roy Hattersley, an acolyte of Tony Crosland, who was an advocate of the “democratic equality” propagated by John Rawls, and Eduard Bernstein, the Marxist revision who argued that “Kant was not cant” and upon whom Crosland self-consciously modelled his thought. This constitutes a fertile heritage of moral and political philosophy on the nature of equality and justice and the application of these concepts to politics. So it came as rather a shock on Friday night to be told that I might have to liberate myself from a mental occupation by this heritage if I am to properly understand and take forward my stated objectives: equality and justice.

Alastair Crooke provided this revelation in a talk he gave to City Circle on his new book ResistanceThis book argues that the heritage from which my politics flows is one in which individualism remains “the organisational principle around which society, politics and economics are organised”. My social democratic views might seek to humanise markets and the individualism upon which markets are based. But, ultimately, they accept them. In contrast, it is argued, political Islam rejects markets in favour of a world view that insists upon a primacy for “human beings behaving to one another with justice, equality and compassion”.

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08.02.09

Labour's centre are ideologists – it just doesn't feel like it

Given my call for Labour’s centre to be ideologists, I should say that it is my view that those in centre or even on the right of the party are often more ideological than can be presumed – it sometimes just doesn’t feel like it. Nonetheless, those on the left of the party would be mistaken if they, as “the Marxists et al” of Crosland’s day may have done, conducted themselves as if they alone are the party’s ideologists. This is because this isn’t the case. Take the comment from James Purnell below, for example.

“Today’s public debate of politics is trivialised and sclerotic. When we discuss policy at all, we rarely move beyond false choices … Triangulation cuts the path to trivialisation. This is because it sets up false choices – our left wing critics would do this odd thing; our right wing critics would do this bad thing, so the only option is to do our reasonable thing. By definition, such false choices cannot be debated. Those who disagree with us do not feel we are representing their position fairly or accurately, so do not engage with our arguments. We fail to convince them when we’re right and fail to hear them when we’re wrong. The result is detachment and frustration”.

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08.02.09

Labour’s centre are ideologists – it just doesn’t feel like it

Given my call for Labour’s centre to be ideologists, I should say that it is my view that those in centre or even on the right of the party are often more ideological than can be presumed – it sometimes just doesn’t feel like it. Nonetheless, those on the left of the party would be mistaken if they, as “the Marxists et al” of Crosland’s day may have done, conducted themselves as if they alone are the party’s ideologists. This is because this isn’t the case. Take the comment from James Purnell below, for example.

“Today’s public debate of politics is trivialised and sclerotic. When we discuss policy at all, we rarely move beyond false choices … Triangulation cuts the path to trivialisation. This is because it sets up false choices – our left wing critics would do this odd thing; our right wing critics would do this bad thing, so the only option is to do our reasonable thing. By definition, such false choices cannot be debated. Those who disagree with us do not feel we are representing their position fairly or accurately, so do not engage with our arguments. We fail to convince them when we’re right and fail to hear them when we’re wrong. The result is detachment and frustration”.

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06.02.09

Labour's centre must be ideologists too

Good post earlier this week from Danny Finkelstein:

“A very interesting comment from Pregethwr underneath my post on Labour and its leadership:

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06.02.09

Labour’s centre must be ideologists too

Good post earlier this week from Danny Finkelstein:

“A very interesting comment from Pregethwr underneath my post on Labour and its leadership:

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13.01.09

Statues in the centre of new housing estates

Some might think that Andy Burnham tried to fuse incompatibles in socialism and culture in his address to the Fabian Society tonight. However, Tony Crosland produced some memorable lines on culture in one of the greatest socialist tracts that this country has ever produced.

“We need not only higher exports and old-age pensions, but more open-air cafes, brighter and gayer streets at night, later closing-hours for public houses, more local repertory theatres, better and more hospitable hoteliers and restaurateurs, brighter and cleaner eating-houses, more riverside cafes, more pleasure-gardens on the Battersea model, more murals and pictures in public places, better designs for furniture and pottery and women’s clothes, statues in the centre of new housing-estates, better-designed street-lamps and telephone kiosks, and so on ad infinitum. The enemy in all this will often be in unexpected guise; it is not only dark Satanic things and people that now bar the road to the new Jerusalem, but also, if not mainly, hygienic, respectable, virtuous things and people, lacking only in grace and gaiety”.

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